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Symbolic consumption, signification and the 'lockout' of electric cars, 1885-1914

Symbolic consumption, signification and the 'lockout' of electric cars, 1885-1914

Ivory, Christopher and Genus, Audley (2010) Symbolic consumption, signification and the 'lockout' of electric cars, 1885-1914. Business History, 52 (7). pp. 1107-1122. ISSN 0007-6791 (Print), 1743-7938 (Online) (doi:

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The paper analyses the sources of meanings attached to consumption of the early automobile to inform analysis of the lockout of electric automobiles in the UK, mindful of related developments in France, and the USA. Data are gathered from archive sources, and include social and technical histories and popular newspapers and magazines from the period investigated (1885–1914). The paper asserts that the association of the early car with specific and particular cultural meanings, as defined by class and gender, led to it becoming an untenable choice for early consumers contributing to the ‘lockout’ of the electric car before it had a chance to establish itself as a viable socio-technical system. The conclusion highlights the limitations of an analytical focus privileging technical accounts of lockout and identifies the contribution of the concepts of symbolic consumption and signification.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: automobiles, cars, electric vehicles, lockout, signification, meaning, consumption, technology, social change, business history
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of Systems Management & Strategy
Faculty of Business
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:11
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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